US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron held talks on Saturday after a public spat over the French leader’s suggestion that Europe should rely less on the US for its security.
The US and France attempted to smooth over differences over a European defense mechanism, with Trump assuring Macron that Washington would “help” Europe with its defense.
Trump, however, reiterated that EU member states must pay their fair share toward NATO expenses.
The US president arrived in Paris on Friday to participate in commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
A ‘European Union army’
Macron said in a radio interview earlier in the week that the EU needed to protect itself against “China, Russia and even the United States.”
“Confronted by Russia, which is on our borders and which has shown itself willing to be threatening, we need to have a Europe that can better defend itself by itself and in a sovereign way, without depending solely on the United States,” he told Europe 1 broadcaster.
In response to Macron’s proposal, Trump took a jab at the French president in particular, and the EU in general.
“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the US, China and Russia,” the US president tweeted.
“Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidizes greatly!” he added.
Trump has repeatedly complained that NATO allies are not contributing enough towards the alliance’s defense budget and relying heavily on the US.
Macron’s office said Saturday that the French president’s comments about a European army had been misinterpreted.
“He never said we need a European army against the United States,” a statement released by Macron’s office said.
At the meeting with the French leader on Saturday, Trump said that Macron “understands that the United States can only do so much,” adding that the US was not disengaging and was trying to help.
Ties between the US and the EU have deteriorated since Trump took office in January 2017. Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have taken a more independent line to reduce security and trade dependence on the US.
shs/tj (AFP, AP)